How to Install a Rain Chain in 9 Simple Steps

This beautiful garden element is right as rain

Amber Guetebier
Written by Amber Guetebier
Updated May 11, 2022
garden rain chain
Photo: LeahHallamCreative / Adobe Stock


Saturday skill builder.

Time to complete

2 hours

One to two hours

What you'll need:


  • Ladder
  • Drill
  • Gloves
  • Tape measure


  • Potting soil and plants (costs vary)
  • A rain chain kit
  • A large ceramic pot
  • 3/4-inch stone or pebbles (calculate how many bags you’ll need based on the size of the hole you will dig)
  • Medium to large size river stone

A rain chain is a beautiful alternative to a traditional downspout and make for a tranquil water feature in any garden. Rain chains function similarly to how downspouts work, guiding rain water from your gutters and away from your home’s foundation — sometimes into a pot, rain barrel, or garden bed. 

Here are nine steps to install a rain chain on your property.

  1. Decide on Placement and Pot

    Rain chains come in various styles, from decorative copper designs to simple brass chains. But before you buy your rain chain kit, calculate the distance from your gutter to the ground to figure out how long it needs to be.

    Rain chains make a pleasant “tinkle” sound when the water hits them, so you may want to hang them near a window, patio, or deck. You’ll also need to decide what should be at the bottom of the rain chain to catch the rainwater. 

    Some ideas include:

    • A stone-filled ceramic or terracotta pot

    • A planter pot with water-loving plants (you will need to adapt to ensure plenty of drainage)

    • A rain barrel

    • An existing garden bed with water-loving plants that is sloped away from the house

  2. Remove the Downspout

    Remove the downspout from the gutter and place the rain chain into the opening. If you decide to install the chain where there isn’t already a hole, you’ll need to drill one. Follow the rain chain’s manufacturer’s instructions for how large a hole it requires (it will vary from kit to kit).

  3. Measure the Length

    Measure the distance from the hole to the ground. Most rain chain kits have an adjustable length. You will have estimated this length before buying it, based on the height of your roofline.

  4. Assemble the Rain Chain

    close up of rain chain outside home
    Photo: electravk/ iStock/ Getty Images

    You can buy a rain chain kit at most garden centers, home improvement stores, or your local hardware shop. While there are a variety of styles, each kit should contain lengths of chain and small cups to slow the water down as it leaves the gutter. Check the measurements of your rain chain against the distance to the gutter. Once you’ve assembled the rain chain, set it aside temporarily.

  5. Dig a Hole

    Now that you know where your rain chain will hang, dig a hole that is a few inches wider than the pot or rain barrel’s width, and about six inches deep.

  6. Fill the Hole

    Regardless of whether you’re putting it in a planter, rain barrel, or pot of stones, fill the hole with small pebbles or 3/4 inch stone.

  7. Prep the Pot

    Be sure any pot you use has plenty of drainage holes. Fill the pot three-quarters full of the same pebbles or stone you place in the hole. 

    Pro tip: If you plan to plant water-loving plants, fill the pot with about one-quarter full of stones, but don’t add soil or plants yet.

  8. Hang the Chain

    Safely climb your ladder and hang the rain chain. Your kit will have either a gutter bracket or V-hook designed to fill the hole and allow you to attach the chain.

  9. Fill the Pot

    rain chain with copper planter
    Photo: MOLLY SHANNON/ Adobe stock

    Your next goal is to center the chain in your container and anchor it with more stones. Here’s how:

    • Direct the chain to the center of the pot and fill the pot the rest of the way with pebbles. 

    • Add larger, heavier stones on top to anchor everything in place.

    If you are planting water-loving plants, instead of adding rocks to the top:

    • Direct the chain toward the center of the pot, and add a few stones to hold it in place. 

    • Add potting soil to fill the pot three-quarters full. Keep the soil level lower than you would otherwise to avoid it all flooding back out. 

    • Add your plants.

DIY vs. Hiring a Pro 

Installing a rain chain is a relatively straightforward project, as most rain chain installation kits come with everything you need. However, it almost always involves climbing a ladder. If this is not something you’re comfortable with, consider hiring a local handyperson to take care of it for you. Expect to pay about $50 per hour for a handyperson. You’ll want to buy the rain chain kit yourself in advance. Kits cost on average of $100 but can range from $50 to $150 or more. 

Rain Chain FAQ 

Rain chains are not one size fits all. Here are some common questions.  

Can I Install a Rain Chain Into a Rain Barrel? 

Yes you can. If you have installed a rain barrel, follow steps one through five above, including adding the pebbles in the hole to ensure good drainage. 

  • Be sure to account for the length of the rain barrel when calculating the length of your chain. 

  • Install your rain chain, but direct it into the opening of your rain barrel instead of into a pot.

  • On average, rain barrels cost $120 to $150.

What Kind of Plants Can I Place Under My Rain Chain or Downspout? 

Unless it only rains once in a blue moon where you live, you’re going to want water-loving plants in your garden bed or pot. A few ideas for plants that aren’t super fast-growing (meaning they’re good in pots or near foundations) and can handle a lot of standing water include: 

  • Acorus (Sweet flag)

  • Colocasia esculenta (Taro or elephant ear): In many climates, these are annuals, making them less desirable because you need to adjust the chain again after each replant.

  • Equisetum scirpoides (Dwarf horsetail rush) Note: non-dwarf varieties of horsetail are fast growers and can take over quickly

  • Juncus effusus (Curly rush)

Osmunda regalis (Royal fern): Royal fern can grow quickly but can also handle being crowded, making them good container plants.